Connection, Community, and Friends: Mental Health Awareness Day

Hello, friends! Sorry I’m a bit late to the party today. After talking yesterday about how great and easy it was waking up early in the morning … I totally overslept this morning! Of course I did. By, like, two hours. So instead of reading my post with your trusty cup of coffee by your side, we’ll swap it out with a glass of wine (or cup of herbal tea) and have a little evening chat!

So I heard that today is Mental Health Awareness day, and what a perfect day to discuss what was on my mind today:

Connection. Community. Friends.

How does this relate to Mental Health Awareness, you may wonder? For me and my own mental health journey, this was the secret sauce. This was the one thing that was missing from my life for so long, and I had no idea what was missing. Finding people to connect with – and not just through social media, but, like, face-to-face, share-your-fries, right-here-so-we-can-high-five-each-other type interactions – is one of the most important and yet one of the most underrated ways we can improve our health and well being. Because for some of us, other people are, you know, other people.

And I get it. Friends are hard to find when you’re pretending to be a grown-up. Most of your time is filled with work, commuting, maybe caring for kids or other family members and you don’t have much free time to spend with someone else. Or you moved to a new place and just don’t know anyone yet, even years later (guilty!). But wherever and however you can find and make new friends, just know that they are a huge contributor to health and longevity. And from personal experience, can really change your mental health game as well.

Now, I’m an introvert, and I know I need a sufficient amount of alone time to maintain sanity. If I’m interacting with too many people for too long, I get this crawly-out-of-my-skin feeling and I know I just need to go … away, like, now right now. I need to be alone. So I make sure to schedule at least one day a month where I have exactly zero appointments, obligations, or plans. I stay at home all day and just do whatever I want, and don’t have to talk to anyone. I read, I organize closets, or I just binge watch Netflix. I might get outside and go for a hike or something, but only if I’m feeling it. And it’s glorious. I love it so hard. And I go to bed so refreshed and happy. To me, this is a form of self-care.

One evening or one day without human interaction is just fine with me. It’s not for everyone, but it’s what I need. But if one is good, more is better, right? But here’s the thing about managing depression – it’s a disease of isolation. It wants me to be alone for too long so it can get its claws back in me. It wants me to feel alone and disconnected, turning down invitations to be included and make excuses on why I need to stay in and be alone. And so quickly I can cross that line from innocently charging my introvert buckets to tanking back down under the cloudy mental sky, which is opposite of self care.

So how do I keep from crossing that line? How do I make sure that being alone is something I need to do and not something that’s harming me? It’s taken a lot of trial and error to figure out the difference for me. But I know that if I’m hanging around at home, and the idea of calling a friend or going out sounds kind of like an okay thing to do but I’ll just do it later … I’m recharging my buckets and it’s fine. But if I actively reject the idea of reaching out to someone and I just want to crawl into a hole … then I need to call a trusted friend and make some plans to break my isolation ASAP. And I absolutely won’t want to do it. That’s how I know, when the idea of being social feels like the last thing in the world I want to do. Because it’s not me, it’s the disease at that point. So I make the call.

Just like I never regret a workout, I never regret calling or hanging out with a friend. I recognize it now as so vital to my mental health.

Big high-fives and hugs to all my friends out there that answer my calls and take me up on my invites to get out of the house. It may not seem much, but you are quite literally saving my life, friends.

If you’re struggling with mental health, there’s help. Here is a link to a list of mental health resources that can point you in the right direction. Also, if you need therapy but cannot afford it (most insurances cover it, but sometimes it’s only partial coverage or a copay), many schools and psychology student programs offer free counseling services to the community. Finally, if doing the research to find help is too overwhelming (I’ve been there and I feel ya!), find a friend or family member that can help do the legwork for you to get your foot in the door. Sometimes that first call is the hardest call to make.

Go make it a great day!

 

Balance is a Myth

I had the honor to speak on a panel last week for a local women’s group. The even was hosted at Sephora University, which my colleagues and I all agreed had the best bathroom mirrors.

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So stylish.

The topic for the panel was “work/life balance”. And I was like, oh, I am SO qualified to talk to that! I have been juggling work, single mom life, friends and family, health and fitness, and me-time for so long, and while I am by no means perfect I think I’ve earned a few kernels of wisdom that I am happy to share if it helps someone.

First off, I dislike the term “balance” (almost as much as I dislike “moderation”, but that’s for another post!) because it assumes equality. It assumes that there is some point where all aspects will be perfectly centered and reach homeostasis. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to wake up in the morning and realize, “Oh, joy! Everything I need to do just fists perfectly into my day!” No, that’s because it’s not a balance, it’s a juggling act.

And I have to take a moment to recognize a bit of the privilege I have in this area. I have an employer that 1) values employee health and well-being, and 2) trusts me allows me (for the most part) able to work remote or adjust my schedule when Life happens. I also have reliable childcare in the form of a great babysitter and a good relationship with my kids’ dad, so when duty calls I’m able to make it work. Not everyone has a flexible schedule or the general ability to find someone to pick up the kids from school in a pinch. And I find these are some of the biggest challenges in the working mom life to manage.

But back to juggling. Imagine a pile of balloons. And these balloons are just blown up with air and not helium so they’re just laying on the floor. Got that image?

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Okay, now toss all of those balloons up and don’t let them touch the floor. Remember that party game? My kids always play it when we have balloons in the house, but that fact aside that’s literally what it feels like to keep everything going. All of the responsibilities and goals in my life are balloons – work, kids, chores, health commitments, friends, service commitments – and I’m just constantly trying to keep them all floating. Sometimes I ignore a balloon for a while and it *almost* hits the floor. Sometimes I just get tired of bopping balloons back up and quite a few hit the floor. When they hit the floor, I have to choose if I’m going to leave them there, or if I want to spend the energy picking them up and putting them back in flight.

Does that sound exhausting? It can be, especially when you’re out of shape (I speak from experience, literally and metaphorically!) or having a rough time of it. Or if you have too many balloons to keep up there. Or if one balloon is losing air, and it’s falling to the ground a lot faster than the other balloons (this is what I call a “crisis balloon”) so you have to spend more time and energy watching for and catching that balloon at the sacrifice of other balloons.

So what can you do to win at the Balloon Game?

First, you have to get over whatever negative feelings you have about the Balloon Game, about how unfair it might feel or how tired you are or how impossible it seems. Because, yes, it does last forever. Literally. But as anyone that’s run a race or done a hard thing for a long time can tell you, if you think about how long you have to keep doing a task, it feels impossible. But if you focus on just this balloon, just this day, it’s so much more manageable. You can do something hard for one day that would be appalling to keep up for a lifetime. So look at it differently. Just tackle it for right now. Maybe make a game out of it (because it is a game!) and see how many or how few balloons you can juggle, find gratitude in each balloon you have, or see if you can get help with juggling a particular balloon.

Second, you have to make sure your balloon for “taking care of myself” is always, always the first one you hit. To take the best care of others, you have to take care of yourself first. You have to, at a minimum, eat in a way that gives you nourishment and energy, get in enough sleep, and move your body regularly. And I know, you’re like, duh. I’ve heard this before. This is probably eye-roll-worthy old news. But if you’ve heard it all before but still aren’t doing the things to take care of yourself, why? Why do you put the importance of all these other things in life before the importance of you? And these things are still scratching the surface of self-care. There’s also positive social interactions, making time for things that make us look or feel good like scheduling that dentist appointment or getting a haircut, and cultivating a hobbies or activities that we do just for ourselves because it’s fun and creativity is so underrated. So if you struggle with getting in the proper amount of “me-time” to care for yourself, that might be something to ponder.

Oh man you guys, I have so much to unpack here. But I hope this gets your gears going on realizing your own Balloon Game, and how to start approaching it with a bit more positivity and purpose.

That’s all for now, go make it a great day!

The Last 90 Days: A Challenge

How is it October already?? I have to admit, September was a complete blast for me. It’s quickly becoming my most favorite month of the year. The summer starts to drift to fall, the sunrises and sunsets are gorgeous, all of the new school activities are in full swing, and it’s what I now lovingly refer to as my “Em-dependence Day,” the day I became a fully-functioning adult!

Moving Day! Sept 23, 2017

I’ve recently been turned on to Rachel Hollis and her new book “Girl, Go Wash Your Face.” If you haven’t heard of it, I highly recommend you check it out! Rachel has a unique brand of tough love that can really get you fired up and ready to live your life! She is currently hosting a challenge called “The Last 90 Days,” where you put the same focus, passion, and fire into the last 90 days of the year as you had done right after the new year. Because the year isn’t over yet, y’all, and even if your January resolutions crashed and burned, who says you can’t dust them off in October and give it another go? So I signed up for the challenge. Because I love me a good challenge. 😉

It’ll be quite the trip, and you should come with me! You can sign up on Rachel’s website, thechicsite.com and get more info there. Or you can just follow me along on my journey, you Damian Lurker you.

Ready to start? Or at least got your popcorn ready to sit back and observe the floundering chaos that I’m about to perform for you? Great! I’ll see you tomorrow with my weekly update.

Go make it a great day!

So Done: Rewriting Unhelpful Patterns

So, I treadmilled last night.

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I didn’t really want to. I mean, who wants to run on a treadmill when there’s the whole outside to run in? But I really, really felt like moving my body in some way, and I had Buttercup with me so running outside wasn’t an option. I also didn’t really want to pay the $5 for childcare at the gym, and it was getting late in the evening and I knew we wouldn’t make it to CrossFit in time. So, I put on my run gear, handed Buttercup her tablet to keep her occupied, and did my run on the treadmill in the apartment gym. We got it done, and treated ourselves to sushi afterwords.

Honestly, I was sort of surprised at myself. Who is this woman?!? Normally I would look at the clock and say, “Whelp, I guess a workout isn’t happening tonight!” and go watch Netflix. But I’m sort of tired of being that person. To be clear, there’s certainly nothing wrong with foregoing a workout for downtime, and I do enjoy those nights where I spontaneously clear my calendar and turn my to-do list over so I can veg out and stop thinking about responsible things for awhile. But I found that “Ignore All the Things” has been becoming less about de-stressing and more about an unhealthy coping mechanism for me. And I don’t like it.

So I’ve been noticing all the reasons that inspire me to let my healthy habits slide – a late night, a grumpy mood, an unexpected engagement that throws my schedule off – and how I choose to respond to those stimuli. And so much of it is about just not being prepared. So I’m slowly figuring out what systems no longer serve me, and rewriting them. I mean, this is what I do for a living, guys – process engineering. And yesterday, the first thought system to be rewritten is “It’s too hard to work out when I have the kids home.” Because I totally figured out how to get a decent run in, spend time with my kiddo, and still have a great evening together.

What patterns in your behavior are you so done with? Any thought systems or other systems in your life you want to set out to rewrite?

Go make it a great day, friends!

Food Police: Be Your Own Health Advocate

The other day a friend posted an article on Facebook about the latest nutrition “news”. My eyes couldn’t roll back in my head hard enough. It wasn’t as much about the content of the article – yet another study has come out saying coconut oil is unhealthy for you, like all saturated fats you know – but of this underlying message that there is a “right” way and a “good” way to eat.

Can we just stop with the food morality?

Food is not “good” or “bad”. It is not “healthy” and “unhealthy.” Depending on your context, however, it can do good things or damaging things to you personally. But what’s good for one person isn’t necessary good for all people.

Some do better on a plant-based diet. Some bodies respond well to a high-fat diet. Some delight in peanut butter while it would literally kill someone else. The thing is what we decided to put in our bodies is no one’s business but our own. And it’s up to us to pay attention, listen to our body, and give it what it needs. No one can tell you what’s best but you.

You are your best health advocate.

That’s all of my ranting for now, go make it a great day!

There Is No Wagon

I had an absolute meltdown the other morning. A wonderful meltdown, because it led me to a wonderful revelation. For quite a few weeks now I’ve been trying to get back into a regular exercise routine. For me, the strategy is to incorporate it into a routine part of my day so that it becomes habit for me, a no-brainer that I don’t need to think about. And the most logical place for me is to plug it into my morning, first thing. I get up, brush my teeth, drink some water, then hit the gym or run. And it’s been a great way to start my day.

However, there is one little thing that keeps derailing my “exercise every day” goal. And that little thing is my little daughter. On the days I have my kids, my 3-year-old usually wakes up sometime in the middle of the night and makes her way to my bed. If I’m not in bed with her when she wakes up, she hunts me down and cries and fusses and generally starts the day off with a meltdown.

Now ideally – and this is what so many other parents are able to successfully do – I try to get up way before my kids wake up so I can get a home workout in before the house starts stirring and demanding attention. This should be easy. However, every time I gently roll out of bed and tip-toe downstairs to sneak outside to the cold, dusty patio, I’ll just be loading weights on my bar when a frantic, sobbing 3-year-old in Paw Patrol jammies launches herself at me accusing, “I didn’t know where you were! You were gone! I was so scared!”

I mean, how do you even respond to that?

And so I hold her and I console her, and usually I take her back to bed with me, because it is still ridiculously early for her. I coax her back to sleep for an hour or so while I just lay there next to her, wide awake and in my gym gear, my feelings ping-ponging between the love and comfort of snuggling my little one to bed, and seething in resentment that can’t I just have this one time to myself to get my stuff done? I mean, she owns me all throughout the day, is it too much to ask if I have from 9pm until 6am to myself??

And so here I was, laying in bed next to my tiny daughter, and it suddenly occurred to me that she’s almost 4 years old. And her brother is almost 7. And she’ll grow out of this eventually, this crawl-in-mommy’s-bed-every-night habit. And I know I’m going to miss it so hard.

In another year or so she’ll be fine and won’t be climbing into my bed every night. And then I get sad that she won’t always be this small, dependent, and cuddly. Do I really want to give up these quiet mornings of snuggles and closeness for exercise? Am I prepared to start paying the cost of having my kids need me less?

I don’t know if I’m really ready for that yet, because I know it’ll come sooner than I’m prepared for. Soon they’ll be requesting slumber parties with their friends, asking me to drop them off at school around their corner so their friends won’t see me. They’ll stop giving me hugs and kisses and start hiding behind closed doors and giving me one-word “grunt” answers to “how’s your day been?” They’ll be dating. Breaking curfew. Planning for college. Then one day moving out and holy crap I’ll be an empty-nester and then I’ll totally have all the time in the world to exercise anytime for as long as I want!

So to the moms of small children out there who struggle to find time to take care of yourselves and feel guilty about it: if you can’t find the time to consistently exercise and it is stressing you out, that is totally and completely okay to just not work out. You are not indifferent to your health, lazy, or uncommitted. And if you can’t give yourself permission to not feel guilty about not having “structure” or “a routine”, then let me give it to you. You have the permission to drop the idea that you need to work out every day if trying to fit it into a day that already starts too early, ends too late, and has approximately zero amount of self-care time built in is causing you stress and shame. Because this is just a phase of life and This Too Shall Pass. Soon you will sleep through the night again, have time in the evening to cook a real meal and even maybe sit down to a TV show uninterrupted or be able to go to the bathroom alone. I know, right?? Such dreams. But it’ll happen someday.

Now, I’m not saying never work out. When you have the opportunity, seize it! Had the baby off to the other parent, and jet off to the gym. Use a lunch break to squeeze in a run. And when you can get it done, relish it and feel good that your doing something good for yourself. But don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not doing enough, that you need to “get with the program” or “get back on the wagon,” because I’ll tell you a secret …

There is no wagon.

So just do what you can, let go of what you can’t, and just live your life. Because if you can find the happy and joy, you get to model how to be happy and joyous to your impressionable little ones who are always watching, and isn’t that what parenting is really all about?

And the little kid snuggles are so, so worth it.

Go make it a great day, friends!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I LOVE CHRISTMAS!

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I totally live in the camp where Christmas carols are for all year singing enjoyment, and when the Holiday Creep launches Santa-themed end caps at Target in September I do a bit of an internal jolly elf happy dance. The holidays are my jam.

Now that I am all moved into my new place, I was SO EXCITED to start decorating just in time for the holidays! Since the kids and I were traveling over Thanksgiving week, we decorated the week before Thanksgiving. Horrifyingly delightful, amiright? At this point you either want to shoot me or grab my hands jumping around in circles squeee-ing with me. You know what side of that line you fall.

But I think we did a great job. I found the absolute cheapest artificial tree at Target on my divorced-single-income-mom-on-a-shoestring-budget budget, and after the kids took turns breaking hanging up their ornaments, I think it came together quite nicely!

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Hulk and I agreed that I would have the kids Christmas Eve and bring them to his house on Christmas Day, so I wrote to Santa and let him know that we would be at Mommy’s House this year.

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I also found this festive bouquet at Trader Joe’s last night. Always buy yourself flowers. That’s a Melissa Hartwig mandate for ya.

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So I think we’re all set for Santa! Oh, and I am re-re-starting my Couch to 5k program. The other day I treadmilled. Really. I know, who am I?

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Always cover up the console, otherwise you’ll know how little and how slowly you really ran.

But I really want to get back into running again. It’s the easiest way for me to experience sweat therapy, doesn’t cost me anything, and with the apartment gym just across from my unit I can even treadmill when the weather’s lousy.

That’s all for now, go make it a great day!

Moments of Happy

Happy Tuesday, friends! I hope you have a productive week in store for you!

The other morning I was at my usual Starbucks stop, and after the barista handed me my coffee-black-like-my-soul-with-a-few-ice-cubes-for-chugging-temperature order, I took my first sip and had THAT moment. I noticed that this is one of my most favorite parts of my day, that first sip of coffee. It’s sink back and sigh good. It’s the moment when the world stops good.

So of course I Instagrammed it.

And I noticed how there are some dependable moments in life where time just seems to stop as we take in the happy that is in front of us. I started mentally logging some of these instances so I could start anticipating them:

  • The first sip of my coffee in the morning
  • Looking up in the late fall sky in the evening to see a gorgeous sunset that’s all golden with those pink and purple clouds
  • Maxing out on a lift I haven’t worked on in weeks
  • That part in my morning routine when my 3-year-old daughter just rolls out of bed and needs me to hold her for a few minutes until she’s fully awake and ready to put her day under siege
  • When my favorite song comes on my playlist and no one’s around so I can jam and sing loudly and poorly to it
  • When I’m on a run and it’s been a while and my body is fully warmed up and ready to go, and I feel like I’m flying
  • Watching my kids giggle and wrestle with each other like little bear cubs on my bed, while I toss pillows and blankets on them
  • Curling up in bed with my tea and my book at the end of the day

I’m starting to call these my “Moments of Happy.” They don’t all happen every day, but I try to plan on having at least a couple Moments of Happy in my everyday routine. And if I don’t have one, I start figuring out how to cultivate it. Sometimes it’s the anticipation of a good Moment of Happy that encourages me to pull out of bed in the morning. Or sometimes that Moment of Happy is just lounging in bed a few more minutes, with the knowledge that on this particular morning I don’t have any urgent tasks that I need to jump on yet!

What kind of Moments of Happy do you notice in your day?

Go make it a great day!

The New Fitness

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I’ve been rather introspective lately, which I figure is a natural side effect of doing a lot of self-work and spirituality seeking. My “Emily’s Deep Thoughts” posts seem to slowly be outnumbering the ones that contain what I ate for lunch and my latest run stats. At first this bothered me a lot, and I just didn’t want to post anything. I wanted to keep my “la la la, off to the gym, hey look, frittata for dinner!” content rolling but my personal life wasn’t in alignment with what I wanted my blog life to be. Sick of fighting with myself, I stuck to Instagram mini-blogging where it seemed easier to throw some stuff out there but not be too committed to a thought.

But I still felt bothered. I didn’t want to abandon my blog, but I didn’t know how to work it into what I felt like writing about. My whole paradigm of health and healthy living had been shifting, and I didn’t know how to address it. Part of it was because I keep looking to the outside for guidance – what are the other health/fitness bloggers doing? Oh man, I don’t have abs yet, so I can’t do it that way. Does … does she ever wear pants? Or even own pants? Wow, that’s a lot of green juice. And so. Many. Gym. Selfies. Wait, that was my account. But gym selfies of actually working out, not just in the mirror. Workout selfies? How do you even do that?!?

What I was trying to do just wasn’t working for me. I wanted to jump on the train of filming myself working out, coming up with inspiring recipes, and taking lots of mirror selfies of my non-existent muscle definition, which isn’t what I do. It really isn’t ever what I did.

What do I do? I listen to my body and try to give it what it needs. I work to heal my emotional wounds of the past and break myself free of the numbing, survival-based behaviors that no longer serve me. I remind myself constantly that I am love, and I give love, and try to be kind and respectful to all I encounter. And I eat well, go to the gym, take long beach rambles, and do what I can when I can. I am never perfect, and I no longer want to punish myself for doing anything but the best I can at the time. And I feel really, really happy.

To me, this is healthy. This is fitness. Take what you like, leave the rest, and always work in your own values and authenticity. And it’s not sexy. It’s not marketable, and it doesn’t engage people to click. But aren’t our newsfeeds filled up enough with pretty, empty images designed to make us feel not enough so we’ll buy whatever they’re selling?

I’m ready to rock a new road. A road that leads to a healthy, fulfilled life that’s full to the brim with love and experience. A road that says I am already enough, and all of this is just to celebrate all the things I can still do, for the fun and curiosity of it. I remember working out with the Girls Gone WOD group in Costa Rica, and realizing during the EmPack workout how much I love movement. We were sprinting up a hill with weighted duffel bags, something that would normally have me groaning and faking an injury to get out of it. But in that moment the experience was something else entirely. It wasn’t there to train therefore required to achieve and get better, it wasn’t because I ate a donut yesterday and I needed to do penance for my dietary sins, it was moving because it feels good and is good for me. Oh, and it was so, so much fun! One of the best times I’ve had in my life. I want more of that in my life.

Let’s make this the new fitness normal. No more restrictive diets and pills and powders that promise a sculpted body and almost certainly deliver an empty heart. Let’s do more of what makes us feel good, instead of look good. We are whole creatures that deserve wellness at all levels, not just our earth suits. Let’s be mindful of our fitness journey on the inside as well as the out.

Go make it a great day

Don’t Consume – Create!

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p/c Pinterest

The other morning I sat on my bed and scrolled through Instagram for an hour. Yes, an hour. An hour I didn’t really have to spare, of course. I know it was a whole hour because at one point I looked at the clock and it was 5:30 am and when I looked up again it was 6:30 am. And aren’t I the one always complaining how I never have enough time? And when I checked in with myself and how I felt, I found that while I intended to be inspired and energized by taking a peek at what my friends and social media girl crushes are up to, I found myself feeling behind the game and flat. This was not the way I had intended on tackling my day.

With everything happening with my life lately, I’ve tried to be hyper-conscious of my attempts to numb or hide from things, so I don’t start down that slow slide to depression and isolation I know I have a tendency to head towards. I cut back on alcohol, I try to stay checked in with family and friends, and I try to read instead of watch TV. But I am catching myself more and more picking up my phone and gravitating to my social media apps when I feel uncomfortable, anxious, or bored. And I end up feeling sort of icky with all of the media consumption this results in. Politics, scandals, and social unrest leave me feeling helpless and confused, and I’m forever in a state of processing what I just absorbed. Don’t I have enough going on mentally and emotionally to be voluntarily jumping in the game of “What Facebook Memes Will Piss Me Off Today?” roulette? There’s being informed, and then there’s bingeing on Buzzfeed articles from amusing Pinterest posts. Time to find where that line is.

So for this month, I decided to set my absorption of social media aside, and instead focus more on creating content instead of consuming it. I internally lament all the time that I never have time to blog and write. Well, with hours spent mindlessly scrolling Facebook every day, imagine how much I could get out there if I used that time to put out my own content instead? This is the season of giving, right? So for me, I’m going to use it to give my voice instead of lurking in the background of online connection. Don’t consume – create!

Go make it a great day!